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Opinions of Monday, 2 May 2011

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

Are Politicians Responsible for Accidents?

The word accident always sounds most unkind to our ears. It has been a monstrous monster in our social, business and private lives. It does not only claim several lives in its path, it maims almost twice the number it claims to eternity without remorse yet we co-exist with it in spite of our ceaseless efforts to get rid of it. The mention of an accident primarily imports an incident that involves man and mechanically propelled vehicles on land, air and sea, some of which are fatal others near-fatal at the least, whiles we usually forget about other areas where it occurs such as building sites, work places and in our daily activities.

The mumpsimus usage of the word accident has been so universal that in fact, we don’t realise its misnomer in application however its sumpsimus application is usually found in rescue and security institutions where we find incident room where such cases are dealt with rather than accident room. The monster called accident is present everywhere including even our bedrooms. In our efforts to stop accidents, first of all there is the need to identify the image and nature of this fiend, know its ways and movements before we can apprehend it from carrying out its funereal activities. Our jaws usually drop with our faces expressing disbelieve as to why certain events happen that simply seem unexplained. As humans we have an inveterate tendency to seek explanation in spite of their seeming unexplained nature. Truly, not all things are without knowing therefore the question “why” rightly hangs on our lips and it is the one question that holds the key to wisdom, knowledge and experience.

English law defines accident as an unforeseen incident the occurrence and cause of which could not have been detected under any circumstance and for which no one can be held culpable. Going by this strict legal definition of accident, the only thing that I can think of to be rightly classified as an accident is where lightning strikes and causes death, injury or damage; though lightning has a cause, its target cannot be determined. All other incidents including earthquakes, tsunamis and storms have causes that can be detected on time however their happening cannot be avoided but their impact can be substantially averted nevertheless no one can be held accountable for, so they do not qualify to be classified as accidental events because experts tell us before they happen so nobody can be held accountable for it. Truly therefore, every event either by man or by nature has its either timely or un-timely detectable aetiological source. In our inveterate quest for why accidents/incidents happen, let us focus particularly on motor accidents as we may call it.

Causative factors of road incidents so far considered to exhaustion are: drink driving, poor visibility, bad roads, speed-inviting good roads/adventure, automatism/drowsiness, rickety vehicles, jay walking, obstruction, slippery roads, speeding, careless/reckless driving and a few more. If we examine these cases closely, in all the above list of known causes, there is an agent who predisposes and precipitates a prohibited conflict, followed by a formal design, a potential material, and then a final outcome. In this analysis, the driver is the agent, (if drunk, seeking adventure etc or his state of mind); the vehicle is the material; the alcohol consumed and his impaired capability to control the vehicle safely on the road is the design, and the resultant collision or ditching that kills people or causes injury to others including himself and the damage done to property, if any is the final result. So far, no driver has ever formed an intention to kill their passengers by creating any funereal incident. They do so by wanton recklessness and in disregard for the duty of care hence most agents are correctly prosecuted for one of manslaughter cases yet how many of them are jailed for committing this common crime in Ghana?

In my opinion, assessing juristically, passenger victims incur accident but not the drunken, over-speeding, reckless etc driver because they flout their duty of care to themselves and their passengers. In the eyes of the law the driver’s drunken state can hardly absolve him of not foreseeing his impaired ability to drive safely though he does not intend any prohibited road incident. Let us therefore consider some typical scenarios for assessment of an accident as distinct from an incident.

• A passenger plane took off from JFK airport about two years ago. Minutes later a flock of birds are seen flying in the path of the airship. A few birds are sucked into the engine propellers causing dysfunctioning of the engine and the plane is brought down, luckily there are no human casualties except the damage done to the aircraft and the few birds that died.

Though birds of all kinds are usually present in the surrounding atmosphere of the airport and beyond, the particular flock of birds through whom the accident happened were agents of a mischief that coincided with the airship in the course of their flight which can best be explained by metaphysics but hardly can it be explained by any scientific means as to why only on that day amongst all other times the birds usual flight around coincided with the taking-off of the airbus. It would be rightly termed as an accident because no such potential interference by the birds was imminent but it came out of the blue, an occurrence that no scientific device or experience could detect or decipher

So far we haven’t been able to identify who and what accident is, let alone trap and apprehend him. What efforts have we made so far towards identifying accident and its causes? To do so we need to take an inquisitorial and intrusive journey through the dark road of accidents by being more scientific in our approach than the current speculative stance and we can do that by asking ourselves a few questions. When do most accidents occur? What type of vehicles are involved, ie cars, buses, airbuses, trains, cargo trucks/tankers etc? Who are the victims involved such as passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, motor

Authorities like Hume hold the view that we cannot penetrate beyond experience to the operation of real causes posited in the nature of things and he accepts that the reality of causation is a principle of nature. Hume does not believe that anything happens by chance thus he thinks all nature occurrences have causes. He contends that nothing exists without a cause of its existence hence “happenings by chance” is a mere negative phrase. Several things happen including changes in nature either for the good of the changing thing itself or for the order of nature that seem unexplained. Great thinkers such as Francis Bacon factor in natural teleology implying that nature exhibits the working out of a divine design, however Spinoza disagrees and brands it a human fiction and illusory even in the sphere of human action. Therefore, consider this scenario:

• Whiles digging a latrine on a field, Adreba finds gold. The purpose of his digging was not to find gold but the gold find, best described as serendipitous (luck), may be erroneously said to be an accidental find, depending on his predisposition to finding gold in the soil yet unknown to him as to where.

Here, the result is positive for human gains (gold). The clear truth is that the gold was already posited in the ground and required only some human or physical action of an agent to bring it out which could have been detected with a detector however to Adreba it was unknown and accidental. In most road incidents, the operators’ disposition and conduct as potentially dangerous to his own knowledge becomes an agent of a fiend on a mission to cause misery to innocent souls; though Spinoza disagrees as above.

In advancing an argument on the causes of things, the debate gets more complex with controversies. Dante argues to debunk the notion that the governors of the universe are responsible for all things hence reducing nature to a “puppet show” in which every action takes place in obeisance to the divine will alone. Thomas Aquinas, the super-brain on theological issues says natural causes retain their efficacy as instrumental causes, subordinate to God’s will, and further confirms that whatsoever cause God assigns to certain effects he gives them power to produce those effects so the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures.

We are therefore pushing our discussion into the area of divine causation presupposed by religious belief in supernatural events and the deviation from the cause of nature called “miracles”. The airbus incident cited above is therefore a miracle of God (dues ex machina) because it has saved lives, but the Indonesia/Japan tsunamis, the Kings Cross fire in London, road carnage at Tanoso are branded a different name, a malevolence by a devil so politicians take blame with several cooked causes and effects heaped on their head. We usually blame it on human error ignoring the fact that nature, acting in its course requires a creature as an agent hence a human being for human causes, yet whatever course it takes human and social laws require others with similar or same faculties to know beyond the unknowable, usually blamed on negligence. Politicians may voluntarily resign from a position or be sacked the problem would remain unsolved unless social safety requirements expected of politicians are provided. Civil society distances itself from primitive life by making laws to govern our interactions with one another. Criminal and civil law have an inveterate quest for finding malefactors who commit or omit that which infringes the law as a culpable culprit for an appropriate punishment to be visited on them. The law requires every prohibited act done to be accompanied with a guilty intent before judges can apportion the required blame and punishment reasonably; but in all cases, out of ignorance of a deeper knowledge of the composition of the predesigned brain that controls our actions and omissions in all given circumstances we blame the human agent, thanks to man’s ignorance. Great scientists and micro-biologists contend that the head of the tadpole-like shape of the sperm contains all the information predesigned before conception, suggesting that a person in being is similar to a mechanical machine that has its parts and functions pre-arranged and working to complement one another. This suggests that all creatures including man have no choice in their making and can therefore not be held fully responsible for what they do; for no one would want to behave in a way society detests, neither would anybody want to be born blind, murderer, schizophrenic or a social outcast.

Theologians claim all things good to be due to divine providence. With the use of sophistry they blame the devil or politicians for all mishaps but accept the doctrine of theodicy. Hume’s reply is rather sardonic inquiring into why theologians defend absolute decrees as attributable to God and yet absolve the same deity from being the author of sin, pestilence, pain and suffering, poverty, congenial disability, death etc by cherry-picking and running away from reality

Accidents are associated with fatality and the ancients were not fatalists in the extreme sense but believed that man could propitiate the gods or provoke divine jealousy and anger of which the attitudes and deeds of men are a determining factor in the actions of the gods. The Iliad and the Odyssey provide an insight into what may be thought that what happens on earth merely reflects the shifting balance of power in the government of the universe in the instance of theomachy. In many of the Greek tragedies, fate sets the stage, some curse must be fulfilled and an impending doom is inexorable, but the actors on the stage are far from puppets. Therefore, it can be suggested that as fleas to wanton boys so are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. At this point, let us go no further if we want to be on a better part of wisdom. In my individual opinion, governments and politicians can legislate to dictate the conduct and disposition of potential agents of causes of incidents by providing good roads with some safety measures put in place and be blameless however if bad roads, poor and inadequate legislation, poor training of operatives etc cause funereal incidents then we can blame the authorities. This is because nobody can ever prevent what we erroneously call as accidents unless they are self-induced either personally or collectively. Blaming politicians for some incidents is a calculated smear best for propaganda. If we move fast or slow, they both have their pros and cons for even slugs blame being too slow and getting crushed on their journey, in the same way do hares blame being too fast and missing their food. Being too slow on our highways impedes the course of business, causes drowsiness behind the wheels in long hauls and can cause incidents much the same as speeding, so let us be wise and be reasonable for too much of either option is not just bad but dangerous.

The problem with mankind is that we don’t face realities and worship with numinous sincerity so we do not appease our unseen guardians for their guidance. All religions with no exception are insincere with their worship, having been corrupted with material gains. All western religions actively took part in the slave trade with one of Queen Victoria’s slave ships named Jesus Christ. In Iran and other major Islamic countries, their religion forbids prostitution yet they issue ad-hoc marriage certificate for visitors to access brothels to have a one night stand with prostitutes under the guise of copulation in lawful marriage. What a mockery of religion and worship! Under the guise of seemingly sincere religion murderous missions across the world have and continue to claim lives daily. These are tendencies that arouse the anger of God and the unseen patrons of the universe whose decrees must be obeyed without questioning. I reason with Socrates, Sophocles and the super-brains of thought and sincerely believe that those who think the atmosphere around us is void are deceiving themselves and must rethink.

I would however blame politicians for various self-induced awe-provoking incidents for their negligence in legislating strongly against such avoidable incidents and subsequently ensuring their enforcement. In my previous articles on road incidents published in the Statesman, and another in the Daily Searchlight, a random general observation survey on so-called accident vehicles on Ghana’s roads do reveal that most of them were caused by slow moving night commuting heavy-duty goods trucks due to unavoidable drowsiness whereby these operators feel bored in their long boring laborious activities. Legislation restricting nocti-navigation of heavy duty goods trucks have once been implemented and flouted to the knowledge of our politicians and the police. In such circumstances, politicians and the police must answer to incidents involving night-travelling goods trucks. If these trucks are banned from nocti-navigating instances of self-induced road incidents causing so-called accidental happenings would reduce to an appreciable degree

Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa, LLB; MPhil (London) London UK